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February 19th, 2013:

The Philip Morris case illustrates some wider dangers for public health from trade agreements

The Philip Morris case illustrates some wider dangers for public health from trade agreements

Melissa Sweet| Jan 25, 2013 12:52PM |EMAIL|PRINT

Efforts by the tobacco company Philip Morris to claim hefty compensation for Australia’s plain packaging laws under secretive legal processes should alarm those with a concern for public health, according to Dr Patricia Ranald, Convenor of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET) and Research Associate, University of Sydney.

The case also has implications for rural health and our access to affordable medicines, she says, and shows the critical importance of excluding investor state disputes from trade agreements.


Why the Philip Morris case raises the alarm for rural health and wider public health concerns

Dr Patricia Ranald writes:

The Philip Morris company is suing the Australian government in an international tribunal under the terms of an obscure Australia Hong Kong investment agreement, alleging that Australia’s 2011 tobacco plain packaging legislation will harm its business and that it deserves to be compensated millions, if not billions of dollars.

The plain packaging legislation had the support of all parties in the Australian Parliament. Tobacco companies, including Philip Morris, then challenged the legislation in the High Court and lost. They alleged that the legislation was a violation of the Australian Constitution because it was an acquisition of their intellectual property on unjust terms, and they deserved compensation.

The High Court found in 2012 that there was no acquisition of property, that plain packaging was justified as a public health measure and that the tobacco companies did not deserve compensation. See

Despite the democratic passage of the legislation through the Parliament and its validation by the highest Australian court, Philip Morris is still seeking to overturn these democratic decisions using a process contained in an obscure Hong Kong-Australia investment agreement.

Known as investor state dispute settlement, this process allows a single foreign investor to sue government for damages in a specially constituted international tribunal if a law or policy harms their investment.

And why Hong Kong? Philip Morris is a US-based company, but the US-Australia free trade agreement does not have investor state dispute settlement, which was hotly debated during the negotiations in 2004, and even the Howard government did not agree to it. Philip Morris rearranged its assets to become a Hong Kong investor in Australia, so that it could use the process in the Hong Kong agreement. See

Why does Philip Morris think it can win after losing in the Australian High Court?

Quite simply, the rules of international investment tribunals suit international investors, because they lack the transparency and independence of national court systems. The hearings and transcripts are not made public unless both parties agree. The tribunals lack judicial independence, since advocates can also be arbitrators, and arbitrators are paid by the hour. There is no system of precedents, and no appeals, so decisions lack consistency. And the tribunal’s main focus is whether the investor has been harmed, not whether the legislation is in the public interest.

A recent study by the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam has documented many case studies of these problems, with cases involving public health and environmental regulation.  Even if investors lose, governments have to pay millions in arbitration costs and legal fees. See

As the case progresses, information only emerges if tribunal publishes its rulings on procedural matters, which it did in December. See

So we discover that the Australian Government requested that the hearings to be open to the public (and for transcripts of those proceedings to be published). But Philip Morris refused to agree, so under the rules the request was denied.

Clearly it believes that its own case would suffer if exposed to public scrutiny. The government is publishing its own submissions on a public website—Tobacco-Plain-Packaging.aspx

The Government is challenging the jurisdiction of the tribunal, as well as the substantive issues. Future hearings are scheduled for February, July and September, so it promises to be a long drawn out process. Since both the arbitrators and advocates are paid by the hour, this means the legal fees alone will amount to millions of dollars.

Given this experience, it is no wonder that the Australian government now has a policy to oppose investor state disputes in any trade agreements. It is sticking to this policy in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPPA) negotiations with the US, New Zealand and Asia other Asia-Pacific countries, and in its negotiations for the Korea-Australia free trade agreement.

Rural health concerns

Some farmers’ organisations have been lobbying the government to abandon its policy for the Korea free trade agreement, because they want the agreement to be concluded quickly, to give them greater access to Korean markets. See

This is a mistaken and short-sighted argument, which if successful would come back to haunt rural communities. Investor state disputes would mean that Australian public policies in areas like regulation of land use, quarantine rules and low medicine prices through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and other policies which benefit Australia’s rural communities could be challenged, at a cost of millions to the taxpayer.

Two recent cases lodged under the investor dispute rules of the North American Free Trade Agreement demonstrate the potential harm to rural communities.

A US mining company is suing the Quebec provincial government for S250 million over their decision for a moratorium on hydraulic fracking for coal seam gas. Farmers in NSW have influenced the NSW government to have a similar moratorium to examine the environmental and land use implications of hydraulic fracking.

If Australia agrees to ISDS, the NSW decision could be challenged by a single foreign investor. See–ottawa-faces-250-million-suit-over-quebec-environmental-stance

The second case involves the cost of medicines. US pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly has lodged a claim against a Canadian decision to deny a patent for a “copycat” drug, and to allow cheaper generic versions of the drug on to the market. This benefits both Canadian consumers and the Canadian public health system.

If Australia agrees to ISDS, foreign pharma companies could challenge our patent laws and even the procedures of our Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which ensures that medicines remain affordable to all. Affordable medicines are vital to public health in rural communities See

Investor state dispute rights are threat to national democracy and sovereignty, and should continue to  be excluded from all trade and investment agreements.

• Dr Patricia Ranald is Convenor, Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET) and Research Associate, University of Sydney. For more information see

Press Statement] In the fight against Tobacco, Cancer & Heart Disease, the new Tobacco Directive is a battle that cannot be lost

Brussels, 19 February – Today the chairs of two prominent health groups in the European Parliament (EP) have renewed their support for a strong Directive on Tobacco Products. Representing the largest political groups in the EP, the European Parliament’s MEP Heart Group and the MEPs against Cancer (MAC) have joined forces in the battle against tobacco, cancer and heart disease (1).

“Tobacco products should look and taste like tobacco products – and not be masked by designs or disguised by flavours. This is why the Commission proposal focuses on two key aspects: first, packaging and labelling; and second, flavours,” said Tonio Borg, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy.

“Smoking is the biggest avoidable health threat in the EU. We know that it is children – not adults – who start smoking. If we can stop children and young people from starting before the age of 25 then we will have gone a long way to solving the problem – and that is why we need to take measures to stop companies marketing cigarettes at the young,” said Linda McAvan MEP (S&D, UK) and Rapporteur for the proposed Tobacco Products Directive.

Tobacco is a major preventable risk factor for cancer (2) and cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Accounting for over 65% of total mortality in the EU, both diseases cause more than 1.2 (3) and 1.9 million (4) annual deaths respectively. “The incidence of cancer and heart disease among smokers is reaching pandemic proportions. This is saddening and shameful and the EU should put an end to it. We must be vigilant against the massive negative industry lobbying campaign which is now moving out of the shadows and trying to delay, block and defeat this legislation,” said Nessa Childers MEP (S&D, IE), Vice President of MAC.

“The proposed Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) was born out of concern. Concern, in particular, about young people who pick up smoking at a time when they have little understanding of the impact this habit has on their future lives and health,” stated Cristian Silviu Buşoi MEP (ALDE, RO), Co-Chair of the MEP Heart Group.

It is now up to the European Parliament to show that it is able and willing to make a difference in people’s lives. The previous Directive, adopted back in 2001, has been outpaced by the tobacco industry’s fertile imagination. As a result, the EU is today ill-equipped to prevent Europe’s youth, in particular girls, from becoming addicted to smoking. (5) A number of countries in the EU, notably Italy and the Czech Republic, have seen large increases in smoking among 15-year old boys and girls. Latvia, Hungary, Estonia and Slovakia have seen increases particularly among girls. (6)

Smoking is a merciless adversary. It takes the lives of 700,000 people in the EU every year, far more than other major cause of death, like car accidents, drugs or murder (7). Despite 50 years of clear evidence that tobacco use is lethal, smoking remains prevalent (8) in many countries across the EU. “The Commission-proposed TPD demonstrates the EU’s commitment to cancer control and complements prevention actions within the European Partnership for Action Against Cancer, but we need to ensure that the Directive is not watered down in any way,” pointed out Alojz Peterle MEP (EPP, SLO) and MAC President.


-Notes to editors

(1) Hosted by the European Parliament’s MEP Heart Group and the Group of MEPs against Cancer (MAC), the lunch debate was co-organised by the European Heart Network (EHN), the European Society of Cardiology, the Association of European Cancer Leagues (ECL), the Smokefree Partnership, the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), and the Royal College of Physicians (RCP).

(2) Lung cancer has already become the main cause of cancer death among women in the UK and Poland, overtaking breast cancer. In fact, according to research carried out by investigators from King’s College London, over the next thirty years lung cancer among females will rise thirty times faster than males.

(3) Eurostat: Causes of death statistics (Data from September 2012)

(4) 2012 European Cardiovascular Disease Statistics

(5) Women are now smoking nearly as much as men in many European countries and girls often smoke more than boys.– The European Heart Network (EHN)

(6) Health at a Glance: Europe 2012 – Smoking and alcohol consumption among children. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)

(7) Tobacco in the EU: Why we care – The European Commission

(8) World Heart Day Press Campaign ’United for Heart Health’ – MEP Heart Group


. The MEP Heart Group

The main objective of the MEP Heart Group is to promote measures that will help reduce the burden of CVD in the European Union and to raise awareness of the disease among target audiences by a series of dedicated activities. The MEP Heart Group is led by two Co-Chairs, Linda McAvan, MEP and Cristian Silviu Buşoi, MEP. The European Heart Network and the European Society of Cardiology provide support to the MEP Heart Group by running its secretariat. For more information.

. The MEPs Against Cancer (MAC)

The MAC group is an informal all-party informal group of MEPs at the European Parliament committed to actions against cancer as an EU priority and to harnessing European health policy to that end.

-Contact information

Javier Delgado Rivera, 2 230 3076

Government sale of Japan Tobacco shares to launch within days – sources

Government sale of Japan Tobacco shares to launch within days – sources

19 February 2013

The Japanese government’s sale of a US$10bn stake in Japan Tobacco Inc, the world’s third-largest tobacco company, is expected to kick off within days after bankers met on Tuesday over deal details, sources close to the deal told Reuters.

Japan’s Ministry of Finance, which owns just over 50% of the tobacco company, has been planning to sell up to one-third of its holdings to raise funds for rebuilding areas devastated by the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami.

Japan’s parliament in 2011 passed a set of bills including tax hikes and government share sales in state-owned companies to help finance the roughly US$270bn it expects to spend to rebuild the northeast coast.

The conditions for a sell-down have improved in recent months, with Japan’s stock market rising more than 30% over the past three months – and Japan Tobacco shares up 36% – as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was swept to power in December elections after promising aggressive monetary and fiscal policies to tackle the country’s prolonged deflation.

Shares in Japan Tobacco closed on Tuesday at ¥2,925, down 0.9% on the day. That would value the stake the government could put up for sale at about ¥977bn (US$10.4bn).

Government officials said the timing for the sale has not been decided, although proceeds for the sale were incorporated into the budget for the fiscal year to end-March.

Japanese law requires the government to hold at least one-third of Japan Tobacco’s 2 billion shares outstanding.

The ministry last June selected JP Morgan Chase & Co, Daiwa Securities Group Inc, Goldman Sachs and Mizuho Securities as underwriters for the offering. Japan’s biggest brokerage, Nomura Holdings, was not selected as an underwriter after its involvement in an insider trading scandal. (Full Story)

The mandated banks invited other banks playing lesser roles in the sale to Tuesday’s meeting, which was called to inform them of the planned schedule for the share sale, the sources said.

Japan Tobacco has said it would buy back about ¥250bn of its shares if the government proceeded with the share sale in the fiscal year to March.

Japan also plans to sell shares of Japan Post Holdings Co, which runs the nation’s biggest savings institution, to raise money for reconstruction. (Full Story)
(Reporting by Mia Tahara-Stubbs of IFR and Emi Emoto of Reuters in Tokyo)

New Zealand is clamping down on smoking, making retailers hide packs below the counter

19 February 2013

Tobacco companies will be forced to remove their logos from cigarette packs in New Zealand – when a challenge to a similar move in Australia is resolved.

The packaging law “will remove the last remaining vestige of glamour from these deadly products”, associate minister of health Tariana Turia said, announcing the plan.

New Zealand already has strict laws on smoking, making retailers hide packs below the counter, while cigarette taxes have been increased.

The new legislation would be similar to an Australian law that took effect in December and replaced logos on packs with graphic warnings including cancer-riddled mouths. The proposed law could be introduced in parliament later this year to take effect when the legal case over Australia’s move ends – next year at the earliest.

Tobacco companies lost a legal challenge in Australia’s highest court last year, but the World Trade Organisation has agreed to hear a complaint about it from several tobacco-growing countries led by the Ukraine.

The Ukraine, Zimbabwe, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Indonesia argued that governments should pursue health policies “without unnecessarily restricting international trade and without nullifying intellectual property rights”.

New Zealand, Norway and Uruguay have lined up behind Australia in the WTO case. Uruguay told the trade body it could not remain silent about “the most serious pandemic confronting humanity”.

Ms Turia said the New Zealand government wants to minimise its legal exposure by waiting until the outcome of the Australian challenge. Even so, she said, the government is planning to set aside up to six million New Zealand dollars (£3.3 million) to defend against possible lawsuits from the “very litigious” tobacco companies.

Steve Rush, the New Zealand general manager of British American Tobacco, said that the company is exploring its legal options. “We expect to see numerous repercussions as a result of the government ignoring several international agreements as well as setting a dangerous precedent for other industries,” he said.

New Zealand has set itself a target of eliminating smoking altogether by 2025. Ms Turia said the government would consider introducing further measures, such as banning smoking in cars and public places and further increasing taxes.

Richard Briers, star of The Good Life, dead at 79

Another tobacco victim …………………………………… Don’t let Big Tobacco make a packet out of you !

Richard Briers, star of The Good Life, dead at 79

Richard Briers, much-loved star of The Good Life, has died at the age of 79, shortly after revealing his emphysema.

  • Richard Briers of The Good Life fame (© Richard Briers of The Good Life fame. Image. Rex)

Richard Briers of The Good Life fame. Image. Rex

Richard Briers, star of The Good Life, has died at the age of 79. He recently revealed his struggle with lung disease after being diagnosed five years ago.
The much-loved actor was the lynchpin of three of the most notable sitcoms ever made in Britain – Marriage Lines, The Good Life (shown in the United States as Good Neighbours) and Ever Decreasing Circles.
The 79-year-old, who also starred in Monarch Of The Glen, said years of smoking were to blame for his emphysema.
In a joint interview with friend and actress Prunella Scales back in January 2013, he told the Daily Mail: “It’s totally my fault. So, I get very breathless, which is a pain in the backside. Trying to get upstairs… oh God, it’s ridiculous. Of course, when you’re bloody nearly 80 it’s depressing, because you’ve had it anyway.”
Richard Briers was born on 14 January, 1934 in Raynes Park, south west London. His second cousin was legendary actor Terry-Thomas, best known for playing a cad.
Richard Briers trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he won the silver medal and a scholarship to Liverpool Playhouse in 1956. Two years later he made his first West End appearance in Gilt And Gingerbread.
He barely stopped working from that day onwards.

Richard Briers hits the silver screen

The big screen career began with the British features Bottoms Up (1960), Murder She Said (1961), The Girl On The Boat and A Matter of Who (both 1962) and the multi-national The VIPs (1963), followed by Raquel Welch’s spy spoof Fathom (1967).
Over the next 36 years, he alternated his TV and film work with such plays as Present Laughter (1965), The Real Inspector Hound (1968), Butley (1972), Run For Your Wife (1983), Twelfth Night (1987-88) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (as Bottom, 1990).
Throughout these years, he was regularly and prominently on TV including such shows as Brothers In Law (1962), Bird On A Wing (1971), and starring with Michael Gambon in the series The Other One (1977).
He also provided the voice for the character of Fiver in the animated feature Watership Down (1978).

Richard Briers and Felicity Kendal in The Good Life (© Richard Briers and Felicity Kendal in The Good Life.)

Richard Briers and Felicity Kendal in The Good Life.

But it was BBC sitcom The Good Life, alongside Felicity Kendal as his screen wife, that made him a household name. The series ran from 1975-1978, but it has barely been off the air since it ended.
The comedy series that put organic foods, self-sufficiency and green thinking on the map was about Tom Good (Briers) escaping the rat race to become self-sufficient alongside his wife.
But their choice of lifestyle was viewed as odd by neighbours, in particular Margo Leadbetter (Penelope Keith) and her henpecked husband Jerry (Paul Eddington).

Shakespeare with Kenneth Branagh

After a long career in popular television, Briers joined Kenneth Branagh’s Renaissance Theatre Company in 1987, and his already very successful professional life took a new turn as he moved on to major classical roles.
He said at the time: “Ken offered me Malvolio in his production of Twelfth Night at the very time I had decided to expand my career when I realised I had gone as far as I could doing sitcoms. As soon as I worked with him, I thought he was truly exceptional.”
After his Malvolio, Briers took on King Lear at Branagh’s insistence, followed by the title role in Uncle Vanya and Menenius in Coriolanus.
However, Briers still considered himself a sitcom clown, and on film Branagh cast him as Bardolph in Henry V (1989), as Stephen Fry’s father in the comedy Peter’s Friends (1992), Don Leonato in Much Ado About Nothing (1993), the blind grandfather in the controversial Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994) and as a cranky old trouper in A Midwinter’s Tale (1996), the same year in which he filmed the role of Polonius in Hamlet.
He also co-starred with Sir John Gielgud in Branagh’s Academy Award-nominated short film Swan Song.
It was his film-making with Branagh’s company which made his name in the United States.
Other film credits included Michael Winner’s A Chorus Of Disapproval (1989) and the big-screen version of the hit TV series Minder.
He also appeared in the harrowing period drama Skallagrigg (1994) and the PG Wodehouse comedy Heavy Weather (1996), with Peter O’Toole and Judy Parfitt.
Richard Briers also often appeared in the works of the prolific playwright Alan Ayckbourn, playing leading roles in Relatively Speaking, Absurd Person Singular and Absent Friends on the stage and The Norman Conquests and Just Between Ourselves on television.

The later years

The actor’s health deteriorated after being diagnosed with emphysema five years ago. He said he stopped smoking 10 years ago, but by then it was too late. He added: “If you do it in your 30s, you’re OK, but after 30 it gets you.”
He added: “I was diagnosed five years ago and didn’t think it would go quite as badly as it has. It’s a bugger, but there it is. I used to love smoking.”
Richard Briers was one of the most popular television sitcom actors of his generation. But he was no less acclaimed as a distinguished Shakespearean actor, a major development in his career, at a point when he said “I realised I had gone as far as I could doing sitcoms”.
He was awarded the OBE in 1989 for services to the arts. Briers married the actress Anne Davies in 1956. They had two daughters.
He will be best remembered as a bumbling, fussy and occasionally downtrodden figure in some of the most successful TV comedies of his era.

Richard David Briers, CBE. 14 January 1934 – 17 February 2013

Plain Packaging Campaign – Sign up for Plain Cigarette Packs

Plain packaging decisions ‘within days’


Proposed new packs are dull green, without any manufacturer branding

Plain packaging decisions ‘within days’
19-Feb 05:37

The Government is expected to announce decisions on plain packaging of cigarettes by the end of this week.

It agreed to the anti-smoking measure in principle in April last year but there have been concerns about legal action from the big tobacco companies.

Prime Minister John Key has confirmed the Cabinet discussed it on Monday.

“We will probably be in a position to announce what our next steps are within the next day or two,” he told reporters.

Plain packaging became compulsory in Australia on December 1.

Mr Key has previously said he doesn’t think there are any loopholes in New Zealand’s free trade agreements which would allow the tobacco companies to mount legal challenges.


3 News –

Announcement on plain tobacco packing coming

Announcement on plain tobacco packing coming

By: Katie Bradford-Crozier | Latest Political News | Tuesday February 19 2013 6:31

New Zealand looks set to follow Australia’s lead and gradually introduce plain packaging of tobacco products.

The Government has been consulting on the move, with more than 20,000 people having their say during the submission process.

The Prime Minister has confirmed an announcement will be made in the next day or two.

Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway hopes the Government will head down the track of putting plain packaging on all products.

“It is the last bastion of advertising for tobacco companies, and I think New Zealand has a proud history of being quite bold around tobacco regulation.”

NZ to follow Australia on tobacco packaging rules

NZ to follow Australia on tobacco packaging rules

Georgina Bond | Tuesday February 19, 2013 | 14 comments

Click to enlarge

The Government is expected to reveal its decision on plain packaging laws for tobacco products any day now.

The Maori Party’s proposal to force all tobacco products to be sold in plain, unbranded packets was discussed by cabinet yesterday.

Afterwards, Prime Minister John Key told media an announcement would be made on the potential policy in the next day or so.

However, TV3’s Nightline last night reported a decision had been made to proceed with its plain packaging plans.

Consultation ended in October and more than 20,000 submissions were made to the Ministry of Health.

Enforced publication of the submissions on the MOH website helped fuel accusation that the consultation process had not been completely transparent.

Concerns centre on outsourcing of the submission-review process and the counting of duplicate submissions – many from parties that receive ministry funding to provide tobacco control.

Businesses have largely opposed the plain packaging proposal because of the impact on New Zealand’s trade relationships and intellectual property rights.

Australia adopted plain packaging rules for tobacco products on December 1. Cigarettes are now sold in plain, olive-coloured packets with the brand name in small text, next to graphic images of diseased body parts.

First reports from across the Tasman indicate that plain packaging has had no initial impact there.

Opinion: Turia has absolutely smashed Big Tobacco

Opinion: Turia has absolutely smashed Big Tobacco                          

Tue, 19 Feb 2013 9:29a.m.

Tariana Turia's legacy is her big win over the tobacco giants

Tariana Turia’s legacy is her big win over the tobacco giants

Opinion by Patrick Gower

Political Editor

The (NZ) Government is going to introduce plain packaging – something that smashes ‘Big Tobacco’.

Plain packaging strips cigarette packets of all marketing and branding, developed and refined over decades.

It is a body blow to Big Tobacco.

So stand up Tariana Turia, you have done what few other politicians can claim – beaten Big Tobacco, beaten the multi-nationals, beaten the industry, beaten the lobbyists.

I’ve learned the Cabinet signed off Turia’s plain packaging proposal yesterday. A formal announcement will be made today or tomorrow.

You just know how much the packaging means to the tobacco companies by the way they have been fighting plain packaging – taking countries like Australia to court.

In stripping the cigarette packets, Turia has stripped the tobacco companies of dignity.

Any power the tobacco companies thought they may have had over the National Government is gone.

Turia has shown she has the power here.

The Government listened to her – not to Big Tobacco.

Many people ask what the Maori Party achieves in Government – often rightfully so.

Well, getting plain packaging past a Cabinet of cautious National ministers is quite frankly an incredible achievement.

It is the kind of thing they would have avoided if they could. But Turia has made it happen.

It will hurt Big Tobacco. They know it. There is no way back – once the packaging is stripped, they will not get the branding back on.

The price of cigarettes is getting pushed through the roof. Shop displays are gone.

But now the branding is set to go altogether. All that investment down the years – struck out. All that intellectual property – deleted.

This is an international battle as well – New Zealand is another country to fall against Big Tobacco on plain packaging. That will hurt them as well.

There will be a staged move towards plain packaging – it requires policy, and legislation.

Big Tobacco will keep fighting. They will try to smash Turia before she retires, they will try to smash this law change where they can, change the dates of introduction, take legal action, basically do whatever they can to water this down.

Even the hope of a change in the make-up of Government after the next election will be on Big Tobacco’s minds.

There will still be a fight to get this plain packaging introduced.

But make no mistake – Big Tobacco has taken a hit here. Turia already has a huge legacy.

Plain packaging looks to set to become a big part of it.

In her retirement, Turia will be able to look at plain packaging and say ‘I did that’.

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